IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ehl/wpaper/37569.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Rock, scissors, paper: the problem of incentives and information in traditional Chinese state and the origin of Great Divergence

Author

Listed:
  • Ma, Debin

Abstract

This article posits that the political institution of imperial China – its unitary and centralized ruling structure – is an essential determinant to China‘s long-run economic trajectory and its early modern divergence from Western Europe. Drawing on institutional economics, I demonstrate that monopoly rule, a long time-horizon and the large size of the empire could give rise to a path of low-taxation and dynastic stability in imperial China. But fundamental incentive misalignment and information asymmetry problems within its centralized and hierarchical political structure also constrained the development the fiscal and financial capacity of the Chinese state. Based on a reconstruction of two millennia records of incidences of warfare, this paper develops a narrative to show that the establishment and consolidation towards a single unitary monopoly of political power was an endogenous historical process. Using data series on warfare and government revenue for 17-19th century, I illustrate the Qing imperial rule as an epitome of the traditional Chinese political economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Ma, Debin, 2011. "Rock, scissors, paper: the problem of incentives and information in traditional Chinese state and the origin of Great Divergence," Economic History Working Papers 37569, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:37569
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/37569/
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. North,Douglass C. & Wallis,John Joseph & Weingast,Barry R., 2013. "Violence and Social Orders," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107646995, May.
    2. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Loren Brandt & Debin Ma & Thomas G. Rawski, 2014. "From Divergence to Convergence: Reevaluating the History behind China's Economic Boom," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(1), pages 45-123, March.
    2. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2014. "Population, technology and fragmentation: The European miracle revisited," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 87-105.
    3. repec:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:1-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Tuan-Hwee Sng & Chiaki Moriguchi, 2014. "Asia’s little divergence: state capacity in China and Japan before 1850," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 439-470, December.
    5. XuYi & Bas van Leeuwen & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2015. "Urbanization in China, ca. 1100–1900," Working Papers 0063, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    6. Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2014. "Size and dynastic decline: The principal-agent problem in late imperial China, 1700–1850," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 107-127.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N95 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:37569. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager on behalf of EH Dept.). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/chlseuk.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.